By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
There's a lot of talk today about the Democrats' proposed jobs bill, but here's a much less expensive idea: let's take some of the unused money from the last stimulus bill and put it to work getting the snow shoveled this week in Washington. I drove into downtown D.C. yesterday morning, and in an hour of driving here's what I saw:
• Some major streets are clear, but many others are not.
• Most sidewalks are completely buried in drifts, blocking access to local businesses.
• The only plows I saw working (many were broken down on the side of the road) were small pick-up trucks owned by local landscapers, not the big dump trucks owned by local governments. Even the vice president's mansion was just getting plowed out by what looked like a local yard guy with his pick-up truck.
• The only people I saw shoveling snow were shop owners in front of their businesses or doormen in front of big apartment buildings--all of whom are people who already have a job.
The local news says all the local governments' budgets for snow removal are long gone. You can tell looking at the streets that's true. The Hill newspaper is reporting that there's a move to have the D.C. metro region declared a federal disaster area, so that local governments would be reimbursed for snow removal by the feds. (One local station also speculated that FEMA money would be available if your roof caved in, which is becoming a huge concern in some older neighborhoods.)
But I assume those funds take time. With so many people out of work and so much snow to remove, why not quickly redirect the stimulus money that remains unspent and let anyone who wants to work have a temporary job until the clean up is complete? One look at recovery.gov shows there is still plenty of stimulus money that has not been spent -- D.C. alone was awarded $3.1 billion, and only $496 million's been used so far.
The local businesses who have taken such a hit--it's snowed just about every weekend in 2010 here--would love to have easier access for their customers this weekend, and I'm sure some shovelers' families would love to have some extra cash to make ends meet. Before the most recent blizzard hit Rachel Michaud, a local writer, wrote a great article for the Post about her childhood memories of helping her father earn extra money for the family by plowing snow. It reads like a short story, and I can't seem to stop thinking about it ever since I read it. You could save it to read when you need a break from shoveling.